Nissan is the 6th largest vehicle producer by volume in the entire world. They are responsible for some of the most legendary cars of all time. Without Nissan there would be no GTR, no Skyline, and no Fairlady Z. We would miss out out the highest volume electric car ever to be made. Heck, The Fast and The Furious would never really be the same. And so to honor the culture and heritage Nissan brought around the world, we are going to go in depth on the history of Nissan. From Datsun to Prince, 180SX to 400Z, we are covering it all. Here is everything you need to know about Nissan.
Nissan traces its origins as far back as 1911 when on July 1, Masujiro Hashimoto founded the Kaishinsha Motor Car Works. 3 years later the companies first product, the DAT, was created. It was a small 4 wheeled vehicle that really didn’t change the game much. After the DAT in 1914, the company went through several name changes. During this time they also started to make trucks and Datsun passenger cars. Then World War I began, and commercial production halted at Datsun, as they rushed to make military vehicles rather than passenger cars. In 1923 they merged with another Japanese automaker and began making cars under the name “lila” for about 2 years. Then in 1931, they created the Datsun 11.
The Datsun 11 is where we see the first bits of Nissan appear in the story. The Datsun 11 featured a 495 cc engine making a ferocious 10 horsepower to the wheels. The only transmission available was a 3 speed transmission that sent power to the rear wheels. The Datsun 11 was DAT’s attempt at appealing to a lower market, since the car had displacement under 500 cc it didn’t require a driver license and required less taxes. Only 150 were ever produced, most of which have been lost to history. But let it be known that this is the start of what we know today as Nissan.
In 1934 Nissan Motors was formed officially. They started to build Austin 7’s under license which ended up being very successful for both companies involved. Later in 1952, Nissan entered contract with Austin to produce 2000 Austin’s under the Austin badge. In this time Nissan used its experience with the Austin manufacturing process. Nissan continued their partnership with Austin until 1959 when they start to develop the A Series Engine and L Series Engine, the latter of which was put in the Datsun 240Z. The 240Z is what propelled Nissan to the world stage. It was their first sports car and garnered global attention. The next major step for Nissan was their merger with Prince Motors in 1966.
Prince Motor Company was formed in 1952 and was the precursor to many popular Nissan Models in the 90’s and early 2000’s. They were in the market to try and compete with Nissan and Toyota’s grip on the econobox market, but obviously plans changed as they merged with Nissan, and codeveloped the Nissan Cherry. Other Prince creations are the Gloria, R380, and the Skyline which we will get to later…
In the 1964 Olympics, Nissan used some women to promote their new line of sport cars. Both the women and the cars would go on to be called “fairladies”.
The Fairlady Nissan/Datsun sports cars are perhaps some of the most famous Japanese sports cars ever. What started with the Datsun 240z plummeted into a plethora of fantastic sports cars on great chassis’ and ever greater engines. What was the Datsun 240sx morphed into the Nissan 240sx in 1988. From there, it only got better. The first generation 240sx got the name “S13” from Nissan enthusiasts. This is because the 240sx utilizes the now-infamous S platform. The S platform was a 2 door, rear wheel drive coupe that was more or less built to drift. Cars with the S platform typically had naturally aspirated 4 cylinder engines. The S13 in America featured pop-up headlights (versus fixed ones in the Silvia), and was available in coupe, hatchback, or convertible form. Then in 1994 we got the S14, which eliminated the hatchback and convertible forms of the 240sx. The S14 got a little bit heavier and longer, increasing its dirftability. We should also take a moment to talk about the Silvia, the Japanese version of the 240sx. The Silvia’s got SR20DET engines, meaning main they got turbochargers. The addition of the turbo makes the Silvia a highly coveted drift car, due to its extra tune-ability.
After the Fairladies came the 90’s Japanese sports car scene.
This is the first part in a 3 part series on Nissan